Pause in AI development would ‘benefit China’: Eric Schmidt

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Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt dismissed calls to pause the development of advanced artificial intelligence systems over safety fears – arguing a delay would only hand an advantage to China.

Schmidt called for AI progress to continue despite his own reservations about the burgeoning technology, admitting that “concerns” raised by Elon Musk and others about its potential risks “could be understated.”

“The question is what is the right answer,” Schmidt said in an interview with the Australian Financial Review published Thursday. “I’m not in favor of a six-month pause because it will simply benefit China.”

“What I am in favor of is getting everybody together ASAP to discuss what are the appropriate guardrails,” Schmidt added.

Schmidt, who served as Google’s CEO from 2001 to 2011, added that AI researchers shouldn’t release advanced systems “without some kind of mitigation for things that it could do that are negative.”

Schmidt’s call for “appropriate guardrails” came weeks after Musk and more than 1,000 experts signed an open letter urging a six-month pause in AI development because it could pose “profound risks to society and humanity” without proper guidance in place.

Elon Musk is one of many experts calling for a six-month pause in AI development.REUTERS

The letter cited risks such as the spread of “propaganda and untruth,” job losses, the development of “nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us,” and the risk of “loss of control of our civilization.”

“Therefore, we call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4,” the letter says. “This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors.”

Advancements in AI have garnered unprecedented attention in recent months due to the runaway success of Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which has impressed the public with its lifelike responses to user prompts even as it stoked fears among skeptics.

Schmidt isn’t the only public figure who has warned against a pause in AI development.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates told this week that a delay would not “solve the challenges” associated with AI technology.

Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman also cited his fear that international rivals would leapfrog the US.

ChatGPT has exploded in popularity in recent months.Christopher Sadowski

“Shutting down AI development for six months gives the bad guys six more months to catch up,” Ackman tweeted last month. “Our enemies are working hard to develop their own @OpenAI. It would have been a mistake to delay the Manhattan Project and let the Nazis catch up. I don’t think we have a choice.”

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has also likened his firm’s plans to those of the World War II-era effort to develop the first atomic bomb.

During a 2019 dinner meeting with the New York Times, Altman reportedly said the Manhattan Project was an effort “on the scale of OpenAI — the level of ambition we aspire to.”

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